If you are a Catholic, you have probably been asked whether or not you can eat meat on Friday. So where did this come from and why do people keep asking it to Catholics? Find it out here.
Catholics can eat meat on Friday, except on Lent. However, there was a time when it was not permitted. Many years ago, every Friday was a day of penance, and every Catholic was obliged to abstain from meat. This was to show that we are willing to suffer with Jesus during the day He died for us.
Now, you are probably wondering about the significance of Fridays and abstaining from meat to Catholics. You might also be wondering why we ever stopped such a practice. To clear all these out, continue reading below.
When Did Catholic Church Allow Meat on Friday?
The Catholic Church’s rule on days of penance is clear. As stated in the Code of Canon Law (1250-1251), the Church says: “The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays unless a solemnity should fail on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.”
The Roman Catholic Church follows the Code of Canon Law, which was revised in 1983. However, in 1966, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement freeing people from such an obligation, saying: “We emphasize that our people are henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence…”
They do, however, stress that Fridays “should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason, we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.”
Additionally, they said that: “Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified.”
So while the National Conference of Catholic Bishops didn’t make the practice of abstaining from meat an obligation, they insist that: “We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.”
That said, Catholics can now eat meat on Fridays due to the involvement of the Conference of Bishops.
Why Did Catholics Abstain from Meat on Fridays?
Long ago, all Catholics from 14 and up were obliged to abstain from meat every Friday throughout the year. This is according to the Code of Canon Law (1252), which states that: “The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year.”
So why Fridays? Well, because the day is considered a day for penance as it is the same day that Jesus died for us – just like how Sundays are our Lord’s Day as it is the day he rose from the dead.
Now, one way to observe penance is through abstaining from meat. It was considered a small sacrifice that shows an individual’s willingness to suffer with Jesus on the same day that he gave his life to us.
Aside from that, it’s a practice that has been followed by Catholics since time immemorial. It has been passed on from one generation to the next, making it a tradition that has united us. It’s also one thing that makes us Catholic – just like how Jews choose Kosher, how Muslims pray five times a day, and Hindus avoid beef.
Why Were Catholics Obliged to Abstain from Meat on Fridays?
In ancient times, meat used to be a luxury, which is why it was seen as a big sacrifice. But today, this isn’t true since meat has become too usual. This is why the National Conference of Catholic Bishops stopped making abstinence from meat an obligation. According to them:
“Changing circumstances, including economic, dietary, and social elements, have made some of our people feel that the renunciation of the eating of meat is not always and for everyone the most effective means of practicing penance. Meat was once an exceptional form of food; now it is commonplace.
Accordingly, since the spirit of penance primarily suggests that we discipline ourselves in that which we enjoy most, to many in our day abstinence from meat no longer implies penance, while renunciation of other things would be more penitential.”
Furthermore, the Catholic Church prohibited eating meat since it was from a warm-blooded animal. So come to think of it, it makes sense to abstain from such animals on the day that Jesus sacrificed his life since they, too, have to give up their life for us.
With that said, fish, seafood, and other cold-blooded animals as well as vegetables have always been permitted during Fridays, including Lent.
Can Catholics Eat Meat on Good Friday?
Now that we’ve established that Catholics can eat meat on Fridays throughout the year, how about Good Friday? Well, this is the exception. Going back to what is stated in the Code of Canon Law, 1250: “The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the year and the season of Lent… Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.”
So aside from abstaining from meat, Catholics should also fast. What’s their difference? Well, abstinence is refraining from something that you want, that is good, but not naturally sinful. On the other hand, fasting is reducing your food intake. This means that when you fast, you can still eat three meals a day with one regular meal and two other smaller meals without considering snacks.